Ten Obstacles to Saving Faith: Obstacle Two

Truth

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).

Ralph Edwards hosted the former television show called Truth or Consequences. The guests on the show had to answer certain questions. Answering correctly gained a monetary reward. However, an incorrect answer caused a contestant to suffer a consequence. Among these consequences consisted of a woman proposing to her escort on the show on her knees and a sailor calling his girlfriend while a woman sat on his lap saying, “Watch out honey, you’re ruining my hair” (http://www.otrcat.com/truth-or-consequences-p-1945.html?osCsid=7d8c9bjhrbski1eqb80s7el0l0).

This show, while humorous, reflected the real world in many ways. Truth does exist. The results of not abiding by the truth have their consequences. The consequences are not humorous but grim in many respects and at times damaging. For example, committing perjury under oath in court can bring about an indictment and a penalty.

The Apostle Paul writes that there is a cause and effect concerning the suppression of truth.  The causes of truth suppression are ungodliness and unrighteousness. Both of these characteristics aggressively disregard truth. In doing so, they substitute a lie that those who resist God hold up as truth. One of the major restatements of truth in postmodern culture is encapsulated in the mantra, “Your truth may not be the same as my truth.” Those who claim this mantra live by ever changing values of right and wrong, sometimes calling what is right wrong and what is wrong right.  Such a way of living is the penalty for the suppression of truth.

The value system this mantra dictates not only works its way into the life of individuals but also within all segments of society. This leads to lawlessness permeating organizational leadership, the court systems, the executive branches of government, and even with pastors and leaders of churches. Changing values result in ever-wavering application of standards, rules, and laws. The various institutions of our society become infected, including marriages and family, business ethics, the administration of justice, and our approach to God.

Our cities and states become safe havens for lawlessness as mass demonstrations and violence disrupt our way of life, such as with the occupy Wall Street gang and the destructive events that occurred in Ferguson Missouri and like activity throughout our nation when truth receives light treatment or modification according to the whims of individual dictates.

Elected officials have fallen and taken many with them because truth was not germane to their lives. We can name numerous companies that have taken hits to their finances and very existence because of corruption and violation of codes of ethics.  Enron and Arthur Anderson come to mind.  Their Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and other high-level decision makers have discovered similar fates as a number of elected officials because of their suppression of truth. We need only recall Presidents Nixon and Clinton as witnesses to cover-up and the suppression of truth. So many more have fallen in disgrace, resigning from office or receiving far worse consequences.

In such incidences, the consequences of truth’s suppression resulted in eruption of violence, destruction of property, and personal ruin. The suppression of truth not only rises from ungodliness and unrighteousness, but it also promotes them. Truth does exist, and its consequences reflect and give evidence of its existence regardless of its denial among postmodern philosophers.No one is immune to lapses into what the Bible calls sin or transgressions.  It tells us,

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NKJV)

Our approach to God is the most devastating in the compromise of truth.  The compromise of truth within churches often occurs first with Scripture as having its source in divine authority.  Faith diminishes to the extent of the devaluing of God’s word in life and practice..  When the authority of Scriptures falls, so also do its teachings.  For if the Bible itself fails to gain our trust, how will its teachings?  Its teachings have come under attack among liberal theologians so that Christ’s death and resurrection becomes relegated to myth.  Philosophical and religious speculations rise to replace the historical-grammatical reading of the Bible.

Two specific perspectives on Scripture contribute to the dilution of Scriptural authority: the Jesus Seminar and Higher Criticism.  Many scholars from the Jesus Seminar claim that they can act as authorities or arbiters for determining which words of the Bible Jesus spoke and which were added later to the text of the biblical books.    Higher Criticism holds that certain books of the Bible (the Pentateuch – first five books of the Old Testament) were stitched together by a single editor and had a number of different authors.  Higher critics question the validity of the Bible as God’s word.  Rather, according to them, it arose from myths (See D. James Kennedy, “Archeology and the Bible,” Bible and Spade Journal, Volume 24:2, Spring 2011.  Such perspectives diminish the truths the Bible teaches as well as faith.

Scott Newman writes,

Post-modernism postulates that truth cannot be known, and that man is the real source of truth. “Evangelical” post-modernism bears the same family traits of its father by diminishing the importance of knowledge and truth. In some “evangelical” circles the likeness is so striking, that man is taught to be a god, and therefore the source of knowledge and truth” (“The Appeal Of God’s Truth To The Mind: Theological And Exegetical Answers To Post-Modern Trends Within Evangelical Thought,” Scott Newman, “Conservative Theological Journal,” Volume 1:2, August 1997, https://www.galaxie.com/article/ctj01-2-06?highlight=truth).

What a tragic commentary on postmodernism. The very essence of truth is that it is knowable by the very fact that we constantly acknowledge it daily in our lives.  We accuse others of wrongdoing, make judgments of right and wrong, establish administration of justice, and trust others to be truthful in their dealings with us. Truth is innate to and assumed in human behavior, judgments, actions, and the establishment of ethics in organizations and society.  Denial of truth leads to chaos and lawlessness.  Some may claim that certain behaviors do not necessarily reflect universal applications.  Each society has its own rules. That denies the common core principles existing universally as foundational to those rules from which people draw for establishing them.

Humanity depends on such a universal application for order and interaction. Our communications call upon truth to trust, make promises (or contracts), call for fairness, and create order in a multitude of interacting societies. Even the functions of language assumes the absolutes of truth.  Chaos otherwise ensues and results in implosion of interactivity and societies themselves. The extinction of societies throughout history gives witness to the suppression of truth at the root of societies and in the heart of every individual. Truth resting on individuals leads to tyranny as power becomes the mediation for truth: “It is true because I said so and I am the power source.”  The lie is at the root of every other evil: adultery, betrayal, deceit, slander, gossip, boasting, mistrust, murder, and cheating.

Only one remedy exists for reducing and halting the destruction of society and life within it – the acknowledgment of the God of truth and embracing His way through faith in His wise counsel and way of living revealed in His word the Bible. That comes through faith in Him and reconciliation with Him as the source of godliness and righteousness. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, the source of truth, to return us back to God. Those who suppressed the truth murdered Him to cover up their lies with those around them. He came to tell us the truth about God and to reconcile us to the truth. Living in the truth embraces His judgment on its suppression in our lives. We embrace the truth when we place our faith in Him as the remedy God gave to draw us back to God and to live a life pleasing to Him.

Copyright (c) 2014 Action Faith Books Press.  All rights reserved.  May not be stored or published in any form, except for brief excepts as noted by copyright law, without expressed written permission from the publisher.

Opposition to Religious Freedom

While opposition to religious freedom continues to raises its ugly head, little do those who oppose religious liberty understand that freedom of speech and the practice of religion are integrated.  Any attempts to chill either is oppression and violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.  The suppression of free speech is also a suppression of religious freedom, and the opposite is true.

The mayor’s office in Houston is another incident where both freedom of religion and speech have come under attack.  Mayor Parker recently sent a subpoena to several church pastors demanding that they send their sermons to the mayor’s office for review if they have certain words or phrases in them: homosexual, her name, or any other similar wording.  In other words, if the pastors do not comply, they would be in contempt of court and be prosecuted.

The Houston mayor’s office received a notice not only from the pastors’ attorney but also from the Texas State Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Human Rights Commission to stand down and cease her actions.  They knew that the mayor’s office was in violation of First Amendment rights and that the Mayor was stepping out on a dangerous cliff.

Attempts to silence the gospel has received its challenges over the decades, but the action of the Houston mayor is rather blatant.  Hobby Lobby won at the US Supreme Court in their case over paying for abortion drugs in their insurance premiums.  Such lawsuits and opposition to religious freedom and speech would have been unheard of a century ago, but religious freedom receives increasing opposition in our society as the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4) attempts to turn the hearts of individuals to himself and away from God.  The Apostle Peter aligns with the Apostle Paul when he claims that Satan is like a roaring lion roaming around seeking those he wants to devour (1 Peter 5:8).  Satan has placed his own hatred in the heart of those who oppose God to stand up against those who place their faith in Him.  We should not be surprised at his tactics, but rather we should learn about them to be able to stand up against those who side with Satan.

When those in power attempt to suppress the gospel, they must find or create a message to replace it.  That message arises from debauchery and deceit.  Such a message looks at wrong and calls it right and demands that people must embrace that wrong through oppression and suppression of the truth.  A path exists from seeing wrong as benign to ignoring it, acknowledging it, accepting it, embracing it, and finally practicing it.  Once a wrongdoing enters the stage of being seen as a neutral practice, that opens the door to considering it as benign.  As benign, wrongdoing can be left to grow within a society much like a benign tumor grows in the body.  This benign tumor can displace other organs, and a wrongdoing seen as benign can displace truth through shifting it to “your truth may not be the same as my truth.”  At that stage, truth becomes rejected in favor of some sort of alleged neutral ground.  Once this neutral ground is established within the mind, the person becomes an evangelist for spreading this benign message (or new gospel) to the community at large and outward to society.

Modern philosophy is like this benign tumor by relegating wrongdoing and evil to a neutral ground.  However, such relegation is not a neutral act as no act is neutral.  Actions and practices step out from belief systems.  Belief systems are not neutral or benign.  Rather, they are advocates of one’s worldview or philosophy of life.  One’s worldview does not sit benignly in the mind taking neutral positions on practices one encounters.  People vote their positions in the public square.  As a person encounters a particular practice, thinking, or behavior, one either accepts or rejects it depending on that person’s worldview.  Accepting a new way of thinking can cause a shift in a worldview for incorporating what one accepts for making subtle changes in the worldview.  If the incorporated thinking or philosophy comes in conflict with a component within one’s worldview, a struggle ensues until the new thought process or behavior is accepted or rejected.  All of us are tempted with such recurring conflicts.  The rejection of one way of thinking must transpire for the acceptance of another way of thinking.  Neutrality calls for co-existence, but co-existence cannot occur when a struggle happens over conflicting philosophies concerning thinking and behavioral practice.  Like a tumor, the new way of thinking or belief displaces the existing way of thinking or belief.

Neutrality then follows the path of rejecting existing philosophy past ignoring the new to acknowledging, accepting, and embracing a stance, worldview, or lifestyle of a new worldview, paradigm, or philosophy.  Acceptance turns into advocacy much like what has happened within the Houston mayor’s office.  The mayor not only rejected the biblical worldview for belief and practice, but she embraced a worldview opposite the biblical one to the point of practice and advocacy.  Practice turned to evangelism for her worldview as she pressed it on the pliable and malleable Houston City Council to rule according to a tyranny of the minority.  She was never neutral but an evangelist for a specific worldview that opposed the worldview of pastors she subpoenaed.  Hers was an opposition toward suppression of these pastors’ speech and religious practice.

Neutrality much like tolerance cannot exist when there is opposition and conflicting worldviews.  “Tolerance” is a smokescreen for the intolerant statement “my truth may not be your truth.  Truth is not neutral nor tolerant of a lie.  Rather, it creates a dividing line between what is right and wrong.  It leaves no neutrality.  The source of truth is God whose truth is universal and stands opposed to all worldviews that reject truth.  There is no “my truth may not be the same as your truth.”  That statement has its source in worldly view and not in God’s view.  When one makes such a statement, they exclude all other worldviews and reflect intolerance of others while embracing “my truth.” The perspective of “my truth” is no more than a limited grasp of an alienated state from and opposed to God.  It not only rejects God as the source of truth but other belief systems through the stress of “my truth.”  It is ultimate intolerance.  Intolerance leads to suppression and oppression of opposing worldviews and ultimately opposition of religious freedom and free speech.

For this reason, the Founding Fathers of our nation incorporated the First Amendment into the US Constitution.  They recognized humanity’s fallen state from God and sought a higher law founded upon unalienable rights conferred by the Creator.  They saw God’s truth as the ruling truth over the intolerant “my truth may not be the same as your truth.”  They saw God’s law as the prevention of oppression of religious practice and speech.  They knew that when humanity embraced God as the source of truth, they could live with one another in spite of conflicts and differences.  The gospel is the message for ultimate freedom for embracing the way God originally created us and to live according to the truth found in Jesus Christ who claimed,

I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life (John 14:6).

“My truth may not be the same as your truth” Is this true?

From time to time, I hear someone saying, “My truth may not be the same as your truth.”  Because postmodern thinking has infiltrated this generation and our Western society with its relativism, many make this statement without realizing what they say.  They do not realize the problems arising from this statement.  Some do, but use it as an escape hatch for shutting down an argument in which they do not wish to engage.  Those shutting down an argument cannot defend their own position.  Others also look at this statement as conclusive, the end of all argument, and an inescapable “truth” without a legitimate rebuttal.  Are these conclusions really that air tight or do they simply teeter on the cliff of irrationality, reducing argument and communication to meaningless?  Let us examine the logic and philosophy behind this statement and dig to the root of it.

The book Nothing But the Gospel addresses this argument, stating,

Many today reduce truth to “my truth may not be the same as your truth.”  Such an assessment of truth cancels it out by reducing it to millions of individual opinions.  In doing so, truth itself depends on humanity and not on God, and reduces it to non-existence.  Such so-called truth relies on the limitations of finite beings living in a temporal existence and ignores the unknown” (p. 76).

That is, one making this claim about truth asserts a self-defeating argument and redefines the meaning of truth.  Opinion substitutes for truth and makes truth dependent on the limitations of an individual, group, community, or society.  By redefining the word, the user becomes enclosed in his or her own limited existence beyond which another “truth” claims to exist.  That is, all “truths” are mutually exclusive and only valid within a specific circle.

Moving outside one’s circle of truth into another person’s circle is non-negotiable depending on the flexibility of one’s “truth” principles.  It also expresses a statement of intolerance and standard.  That is, if your truth is different from mine, then anything beyond my cocoon of truth has little relevance.  Not only does it have little relevance, but if I cling heartily to my truth, your truth can be very offensive to me. Such offense lends to alienation and conflict while cutting off discourse and association.  The more firm the stance on one’s truth, the greater the intolerance of another person or group’s truth.  Of course, this assertion remains unstated until “truths” clash.  Then the banners raise and protests begin.

This statement about truth also raises what one attempts to avoid: absoluteness and a sense of right or wrong.  By making the statement about truth as possessive or belonging to one person or group as opposed to another, a sense of absoluteness arises.  One who makes the claim will not state outright that another is wrong, but when one makes such a claim, that person excludes the claims of any other “truth.”  An attitude of intolerance confirms this absoluteness, which eventually surfaces when one holding the claim is pressed in a corner.

Furthermore, truth cannot stand alone.  It must be practiced.  Otherwise, it is ethereal and has no substance or connection to the real world.  Practice makes truth reality.  Practice expresses and distinguishes between right and wrong right and wrong.  That is, a person behaves in a manner one believes to be a right course as opposed to a wrong course.  People make judgments and engage in actions based on personal standards.  We often hear the phrase when asked why a person acted in the way one did, “It was simply the right thing to do.”  Trust depends on telling the truth or exhibiting certain attitudes or behaviors.  People realize that specific attitudes and behaviors are common within groups, communities, and societies.

A person making a claim about “my truth” soon discovers isolation.  Others outside of the realm of another person’s truth then begin to view the person clinging to a “my truth”  as an oddball.  Consequently, the truth of truth is its relevance beyond one person, and if beyond one person, to how many more will truth apply before it reaches its limitation?  If truth has limitation, it then exhibits the same claim as truth limited to one.  The group or community making the claim, much like the individual, soon discovers isolation, and not only isolation but also intolerance of other groups, communities, and societies.  Have we not seen the results of this throughout history?

Therefore, is truth or a claim of truth a problem or the individual making the claim about truth the problem?  Some may say neither is a problem.  Why then does intolerance or conflict arise with the statement of “My truth may not be the same as your truth?”  Does truth contribute to intolerance or conflict?  The Bible claims that the suppression of truth gives rise to everyone claiming their own truth,

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).

The suppression of truth arises from what the Apostle Paul asserts as “unrighteousness,” that is, the refusal to recognize and follow God as the source of truth.  He goes on to write,

…because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (1:21-25).

In the absence of divine truth and its practice, individuals adopt their own “truth” and fail to recognize that it must be practiced.  Therefore, the problem resides with individuals. They end up practicing a lie while laying claim to “My truth may not be the same as your truth.”  When asked about that person’s truth, the next claim comes forth, “That (practice) may be OK for you but not for me.”  In making this statement, one integrates practice with one’s statement of truth and the admission that it must be practiced.  By doing so, one establishes a standard for one’s view of truth and its practice.  That standard not only applies to that individual but also to the group or community with which the individual is involved until the scope of this standard becomes wider to a society and beyond.

Paul explains the logical conclusion of a person or society establishing its own “truth” – setting up a divinity or idol for the society after first rejecting God.  Under the umbrella of another divinity, individuals begin to practice dishonor, intolerance for others, deceit, and any number of other practices Paul mentions.  Conflicts and destructive behaviors arise as each society clings to its own set of “truths” and looks upon other societies as oddballs.  Power resides in those (the dictator) who hold sway with their “truth.”  Has history not shown these consequences, especially when people depart from the living God and fail to give Him the worship due Him?  Worshiping the God of Jesus Christ brings all claims of truth and their conflicts to an end.  Since He created all that exist, He alone determines truth for that existence.  Jesus said,

I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

He alone establishes the truth for all to follow and reconciles all to it and God through Himself.

“My Preferred Reading” – Have We Lost Sight of the Biblical Authors?

A few words caught my attention in Scot Mcknight’s recent blog: “My preferred reading.”  I have read that phrase a thousand times over in another phrase: “That’s your interpretation.”

McKnight responds to an article by Paul Penley, “Bible Reading Destroys the Church.”  Hmm.  McKnight poses the question: “Does Personal Bible Reading Destroy the Church?”  Penley points to the real root of the problem of interpretation – authority.  He gave the example of Martin Luther before the examining council as Johann Eck interrogated him over his published writings.  He noted that Luther highlights conscience as an almost equal authority to Scripture and thereby created a shift in authority.  He quotes Luther as declaring before the council and Eck,

I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience.”1

Accordingly, conscience and opinion became almost one in authority.  Penley points out the repercussions of Luther’s declaration: a million different opinions and thousands of denominations.  To this day, that shift remains in place among Christians, “I think it means…”  The problem with such a statement, as Penley notes, is the “I” rising high in any response as an authority.  Anyone can say, “I am bound by the Scriptures,” but are they?  He said Luther became the authority himself as to which books belonged in the Bible: James? NO.  Revelation? NO.  His ‘conscience’ disallowed them as having divine authority.

If then Bible reading results in a thousand opinions and numerous denominations, how are we to come to grips with the Bible?  As I shared from a biblical passage in a Bible study group, a participant quickly exclaimed, “That’s your interpretation!”  She did not agree.  Therefore, to voice a disagreement without a corresponding reply from the text, the next best answer amounted to “That’s your interpretation.”  My reply was that if each of us approached the Bible from individual interpretation without first attempting to understand the author’s message, then we would be in effect dancing around author intent and substituting our authority for theirs and the Holy Spirit’s as He spoke through the authors.  It is easy to read our opinion into the Scriptures rather than do the hard work of discovering the author’s message.

One problem we all face is that we are so eager to “spiritualize” and personalize the Bible’s content that we ignore the author in favor of a mystical approach.  That is, the Scriptures speak directly to me.  Bible reading and study becomes all about me and what God wants of me or me to do.  It is personal revelation to me or God speaking directly to me.  “Me” is the center of Bible reading to the extent that the original audience, contexts of almost two thousand years ago, and the author’s intent take a back seat to me.  The author’s message get lost in the mystical aura of ‘God and me.”  When someone challenges the ‘God and me’ scenario, we decry, “That’s your opinion!”  In other words, you have your opinion and I have mine.  Accordingly, the Bible is not God’s holy word of truth concerning Him.  It is a book for me to pick and choose what I think God is saying personally to me.  Again, ‘me’ gets in the way of discovery and understanding God through the means He chose.  Personal application arises from opinion rather than discovery and meaning in the text.  Division quickly shows its face.  When ‘me’ stands front and center, the authors of the biblical text fade in the shadow of ‘me.”

Some questions arise, “Well then, is the Bible not for me to live by?  Does it not apply to my life? Does it not show me God’s will for my life?”  A qualified yes, yes, and yes.  Paul informs Timothy that it is for instruction, reproof, and instruction.  However, that is not everything.  It is a book revealing God and His ways.  It reveals God’s redemption.  God speaks through it to a lost world that rebelled from Him which needs reconciliation.  Therefore, we are to read it with care, seeking the messages of the various author’s.

God spoke through those whom  He chose to communicate His redeeming message to people groups in time and history.  Ours is to discover those messages within those contexts.  The word of God came to those of God’s choosing in specific contexts: culture, language, and geographical.  God had a purpose for delivering His word within those time frames.  Recognizing this helps us to gain a greater perspective so that we do not narrow God’s revealed truth to a “God and me” scenario.  Reading for discovery and meaning first and second and application third allows us to gather the facts from the Bible as well as the message arising from those facts.  God desires for us to know Him, and we do so through Jesus Christ.  God also gave us His Spirit through whom He promised would guide us into all truth (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13).  He brings to remembrance what Jesus taught and testifies of Jesus.

Seeking a mystical experience of ‘God and me’ can overshadow the Spirit’s guidance.  Rather, reading the Bible through the eyes of the original readers in seeking the intent of the authors enables us to understand God’s eternal truths from their eyes.  The application of faith arises as we grasp the messages of individual biblical authors as they reveal God, expose our shortcomings (sin), shows us God’s faithfulness, and explain to us what it means to walk by faith.

1. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/09/15/does-personal-bible-reading-destroy-the-church-paul-penley/?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=jesuscreed_091614UTC040924_daily&utm_content=&spMailingID=46985197&spUserID=MTA2ODE4NTE0MDI0S0&spJobID=521979577&spReportId=NTIxOTc5NTc3S0

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